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State Official: Atlanta Site Evaluation Is First Step In Amazon Bid Process

For Georgia and its quest to win Amazon's much-vaunted HQ2, it is all about the potential sites for the next few weeks.

Georgia Department of Economic Development
Georgia Department of Economic Development Director Brittany Holtzclaw

Georgia Department of Economic Development Director Brittany Holtzclaw said the state is soliciting sites right now that could potentially fit Amazon's wish list of features for its second U.S. headquarters. It has even opened its own page on the larger Georgia economic development website to field potential sites.

Holtzclaw said she is heading up the efforts in the department on formulating a package offer to Seattle-based Amazon, one that will be the state's main offer on the table. She did not offer details on what that package could include when it comes to incentives, and also declined to identify any potential sites that could be on a short list within the Metro Atlanta area.

Holtzclaw's comments came during Tuesday's Bisnow Atlanta Industrial event at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, where she was a panelist.

“Right now, we're looking at real estate,” she said. “I think the approach we're taking is we're going to sell Atlanta first. Let's get them on the hook” before pushing specific sites at the world's largest online retailer.

Amazon Seattle Headquarters
Amazon's Seattle headquarters

The stakes are high for what could become one of the biggest economic development coups in U.S. history. Amazon announced earlier this month a plan to build a second, $5B headquarters somewhere outside of Seattle where it will employ an additional 50,000 high-paid employees. The new headquarters, dubbed HQ2, could resemble Amazon's whopping 8.1M SF Seattle campus in design, or could take its own creative turn.

The firm is seeking a site in a metro with a population of at least 1 million and a strong business environment. In its request for proposals document posted online, Amazon is looking for some very specific features.

Among its core preferences include being close to an international airport, major population centers and highways, as well as having on-site access to mass transit.

That has led to a feeding frenzy as major cities across the country scramble to throw their best offer at Amazon for the project. In Atlanta, many real estate experts told Bisnow that Amazon's requirements actually limit the places that HQ2 could conceivably fit.

Among the potential contenders include sites along Atlanta BeltLine's westside trail; at GID's High Street site in Central Perimeter; The Gulch in Downtown Atlanta; Integral Development's Assembly project at the former General Motors plant in Doraville; and the redevelopment of Fort McPherson.

Holtzclaw declined to elaborate on any of these sites, but did say the state was having conversations with MARTA about how the transit system's current infrastructure could address Amazon.

“Everything is preliminary right now,” she told Bisnow after the panel.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at a 2016 press conference
announcing a distribution hub for UPS

Holtzclaw's appearance shadows info released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal's office that showed the state helped create more than 30,000 new jobs in FY 2017, which generated more than $6B in investments, including the expansion or relocation of more than 370 companies into the state.

Companies coming from outside Georgia were responsible for 12,400 new jobs and $2.6B in investment alone, according to the state, with the financial technology sector seeing the most significant job growth over 2016, adding more than 9,800 jobs. Other industries that witnessed job growth this past year include logistics and distribution, automotive, digital media and food processing.

“Georgia has consistently been named the [No. 1] state for business as companies from around the world continue to choose Georgia to relocate their headquarters or expand operations,” Deal said in a statement. “Once companies plant roots here in Georgia, they seem to grow at impressive rates. The FY17 investment numbers and new jobs figures represent not only meaningful opportunities for communities across our state, but also new sources of income for more than 30,000 families.”

“Activity is the busiest we've ever been,” Holtzclaw said.

Pattillo Industrial Real Estate
Pattillo Industrial Real Estate CEO Larry Callahan spoke on Amazon HQ2's potential impact on Atlanta.

“There is reason to believe Atlanta can actually win the hunt for [Amazon]," Pattillo Industrial Real Estate CEO Larry Callahan said. He added that even if Amazon ultimately passes on Atlanta, the fact that a corporate giant of that caliber considered the metro area should give Atlanta a worldwide reputation boost.